On the verge of making her debut at the Metropolitan Opera House in New York City, Tatiana Barber ’16 felt like she was dancing on cloud nine.
“I understand the grandness of this opportunity, but I don’t think it will really hit me until after Opening Night,” said Tatiana, a graduate of the LINES Ballet/BFA in Dance program at Dominican prior to appearing in the premier of James Robinson’s new production of The Gershwins’ Porgy and Bess on September 23.
“I’ve danced on sizable stages, but not to this magnitude … It almost feels like Broadway, but I know it’s the opera.”
This opportunity is a validation of Tatiana's training at both the Debbie Allen Dance Academy in Los Angeles and the BFA in Dance program in the School of Liberal Arts and Education. Hoping for more opportunities, she moved last fall from L.A. to New York City where, with a new love for Pilates, she started her own Pilates business — Pila Tatis. She says her trust in God helped her believe that the move would still allow her to pursue her dreams doing what she loves.
In the spring, following advice from a friend, Tatiana auditioned for Robinson’s Porgy and Bess.
“My goal was to just be myself and tell a story with my dance,” Tatiana says. “With LINES at Dominican I was taught to be myself and allowed to be myself and I am grateful for that.”
- Request information about Dominican’s undergraduate programs.
With around 100 candidates auditioning, Tatiana was selected by choreographer Camille A. Brown to be one of eight dancers – four of them female – to perform around a chorus ensemble of about 80. Tatiana learned her fate as soon as the audition ended.
“Woohoo! I couldn’t believe it,” Tatiana said. “I had never been to The Met. I didn’t know what to expect.”
Tatiana rehearsed five days a week leading up to the first run of eight performances into October of last year. It was the first time in nearly 30 years that a production of Porgy and Bess had played at the Met. A second run of shows started in January and ended on Presidents' Day weekend.
For Tatiana, this big break caps a whirlwind adventure that started in Portland, Oregon two years ago when she was with the Northwest Dance Project dance company and evolved into a certified Pilates instructor. That is what she was doing in New York when another friend, director and choreographer Tislam Bouie, asked her to star in his video – Peggy Sue’s Blues. Tislam asked Tatiana to portray his mother, a single mom who struggled with addiction. Tatiana was grateful for the opportunity, even more in May when Dance Magazine named Peggy Sue’s Blues as its Dance Video of the Month.
Awards are not new to Tatiana. At Dominican, she was a two-time recipient of a Dizzy Feet Foundation scholarship and was recruited by Mud Water Project creative director My-Lihn Le to perform in the DIRT Festival at Dance Mission Theater. Tatiana was filmed and interviewed for a KQED documentary.
However, until this year, Tatiana’s experience in an opera house was limited to a brief appearance in “Prism” at the Los Angeles Opera last November. It was a two-person opera in a 200-seat theater. The Met, with 3,800 seats, is the largest repertory opera house in the world.
“To go from that to this? The opera at the Met? It’s intense,” Tatiana says. "Still on Cloud 9 from the overwhelming joy I feel and felt throughout my time in this cast," Tatiana says.